Hold it – crash bang wallop – what a PDM

Fujifilm Electronic Imaging was Fujifilm’s first electronic imaging research development and manufacturing facility outside Japan. The company has quickly become a leader in the high-definition, flatbed scanner industry. Despite being part of the giant Fujifilm company, FFEI (Fujifilm Electronic Imaging) operates like a mid-sized company with the same type of constraints: limited budget, staff and time to develop new projects.

When it began to streamline its design-to-manufacturing cycle about a year ago, FFEI identified a need to improve time-to-market and responsiveness to customers.

`This meant,’ said Dave Arnold head of process re-engineering, `that bottlenecks in sharing product data among departments had to be eliminated.’ To that end the company evaluated PDM (product data management) systems from the leading vendors.

It was a web search that threw up the name Agile Software which described itself as an affordable, off-the-shelf solution that required no programming. It aroused interest as no other PDM technology made those claims.

At a demonstration, Arnold was impressed with the power and accessibility of the PDM suite, Agile Workplace. First a working model of Agile Workplace was presented at the initial meeting – other vendors arrived armed only to take notes on how to customise a PDM system for FFEI. Agile is also built to run on Windows.

Prior to deploying Agile Workplace Arnold and others at FFEI viewed PDM as a tool-kit solution requiring heavy customisation. The possibility that a powerful, off-the-shelf alternative existed was not even discussed initially.

Agile Workplace quickly changed Arnold’s view of PDM, `The implementation went extremely well and was completed ahead of schedule,’ he said.

With Agile Workplace, users in engineering, manufacturing, procurement and marketing find it easy to share product information across FFEI four sites. Employees can view CAD drawings, ECOs (engineering change orders), BOMs (bills of materials), procurement specifications, product notes and other development information on Windows-based PCs or UNIX workstations running Agile jWorkplace.

Soon after deploying Agile the information bottlenecks described by Arnold were eliminated. `We publish ECOs in real-time, enterprise wide,’ Arnold says. `We no longer waste time tracking comments or reworking mistakes. The bottom line is we get products to market at a lower cost.’

FFEI’s complex products depend on close collaboration between employees in a wide range if disciplines: optical, mechanical, electronic and software engineering, production engineering, manufacturing procurement, quality assurance and customer services demand a seamless flow of information enterprise-wide. As a result, FFEI employees at all levels are being trained on Agile Workplace.

`It is obvious that Agile Workplace was designed by people who have first hand experience managing product information,’ says Arnold. `The software gives us a solid foundation to streamline the flow and management of information inside and outside the company.

Agile Software is available in the UK from Definitive Applications who also provide any support customers may require in implementing the software.

Definitive Applications Tel: 01635 551553

Components in the package

The Agile Workplace components deployed by FFEI include: Agile Configurator to store and manage product information; Agile Administrator for easy, online system configuration and maintenance; Agile CCB (Change Control Board) for quick, electronic routing of ECOs (Engineering Change Orders); Agile Import to bring bills of material and data from CAD systems and other external sources into Agile; Agile Connect for a seamless link to an SSA BPCS manufacturing resource planning system; Agile jWorkplace which uses Java-client applications to deliver product information to supply-chain members across any Web-based system; and Agile Scan to bring paper-copy documents from outside sources into the system.